Young passes torch to Accorsi Giants GM takes NFL job, hands reins to assistant and fellow Baltimorean

January 09, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- You can take the general manager out of Baltimore, but you can't take the Baltimore out of the general manager.

As George Young ended his 19-year run as New York Giants general manager to become a senior vice president in the NFL office, his Baltimore roots were fondly remembered yesterday.

As Young, 67, officially announced his resignation, there was so much reminiscing about Baltimore that Barry Levinson, once Young's student when he was a high school teacher and coach in Baltimore, would have had enough material to film a sequel to "Diner."

Young turned the GM job over to Ernie Accorsi, and both talked about their roots in Baltimore.

"We have our roots and our background in the same organization, the Baltimore Colts," said Accorsi, 56. "He's a native of Baltimore, and I've lived most of my adult life in Baltimore."

Accorsi remembered when the Colts' offices were located at 600 Howard St., a wooden building he referred to as a firetrap.

Young's offices were on the third floor. At the end of the day, Accorsi said, he would hear the back stairs creaking as Young came down the steps.

"He weighed a little more back then. I knew my work was done for the day and the classroom was just beginning. We'd talk for a long time. Correct that. George would talk, and I'd do a lot of listening," Accorsi said.

When Young was asked about the highs and lows in his career with the Giants, he first mentioned not a Giants game, but Super Bowl III, when the Colts were upset by the New York Jets.

That was a glorious chapter in New York sports history, but not for a Baltimore native who was working for the Colts then.

"That was the most devastating loss by a franchise for the people in the franchise. [After that,] you can adjust to anything. A lot of people in Baltimore were devastated by that loss," Young said.

Young noted that he and Accorsi both worked for Baltimore owners Carroll Rosenbloom and Bob Irsay and former general manager Joe Thomas. All three are deceased.

"Rosenbloom was an interesting piece of work. [Late Steelers owner] Art Rooney Sr. always wanted me to tell him CR stories. He was fascinated that we called him CR. And then we had Bob Irsay and Joe Thomas. You're more familiar with Bob Irsay. We're more familiar with Thomas," he said.

It was Thomas who ended Young's days in Baltimore in 1975. Young then joined Don Shula, who gave him his first NFL job with the Colts in 1968, as a scout in Miami.

That's where he was when Giants owner Wellington Mara and his late nephew, Tim, couldn't agree on naming a coach or general manager in 1979. Young was a compromise choice, with former commissioner Pete Rozelle acting as a mediator.

Thanking the Maras for hiring him, Young said: "I was out in the vineyards somewhere. I wasn't a big name. I was kind of a 'who's he?' in a way."

Young made Phil Simms his first draft choice in 1979, and the rest is history. Young won the confidence of both Maras -- Tim's half of the team was sold to Bob Tisch in 1991 -- and built a pair of Super Bowl-winning teams.

"I've only had good days here," Young said. "You can't have better owners. It's hard for people not directly in the business to realize how good a franchise this is."

But he had his battles with former coach Bill Parcells and made BTC questionable hirings in Ray Handley and Dan Reeves.

The past several years, he has been the target of much criticism for virtually ignoring the free-agent market and building the old way, through the draft.

But the old way was vindicated this season, when new coach Jim Fassel guided those young players to the NFC East title.

Defending his style, Young said: "The problem we've had since we've had free agency with the Band-Aid method [is] we're all of a sudden going to play fantasy football."

In his new job, Young will handle the league's relations with college football, the World League in Europe and youth football. He also will work on officiating and spend more time on the league's competition committee, with the new job starting Feb. 2.

As for Accorsi, this will be his third time running a team, but his first chance at taking over a winning club. When he became Colts GM in 1982, they were coming off a 2-14 year. He resigned after two seasons, shortly before the club's move to Indianapolis.

Accorsi then went to Cleveland to run a Browns team that hadn't won a playoff game since 1969. He put together a club that went to the playoffs five straight years, then resigned in 1992 to return to Baltimore to help the city's push for an expansion team. Young hired him in 1994 to become his assistant.

The Giants' assistant director of player personnel, Rick Donahue, will be Accorsi's assistant GM.

"For someone who first saw the Giants play in 1952 in Hershey, Pa., in an exhibition game against the Eagles, the dream that you could ever be in this position is really more than you could ever expect," Accorsi said. "To me, this organization and this job is a privilege."

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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